Category Archives: Good News

Things Are Looking Up for Orcas

Two representatives from California have introduced legislation into the U.S. House of Representatives that would eventually end orca (killer whale) captivity across the nation. Known as the ORCA Act (Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement), the law would ban breeding of captive orcas, capture of wild orcas, and import or export of orcas for public display purposes.

If you support this law, you can call, write, or email (calling is easiest, and probably most effective) your representative and ask him or her to support the ORCA Act. Here is a quick, easy zipcode lookup for your congressperson.

This comes on the heels of other good news:

SeaWorld San Diego just announced that it will be ending its captive orca shows (SeaWorld San Antonio and Orlando will continue their orca shows for now). The whales will continue to be held for display, and will likely perform in a show that is more conservation-oriented, and not based on tricks. Activists would like to see the orcas released from captivity altogether. But this is a good start, indicating that Sea World is starting to bow to the public pressure against its orca shows that has increased since the release of the film Blackfish in 2013. (Thanks to Netflix for streaming it!)

I recently posted that California Coastal Commission approved an expansion of the San Diego SeaWorld’s orca tank while at the same time, banning SeaWorld from breeding its captive orcas. If this rule stands (SeaWorld has announced plans to sue the Coastal Commission), then the 11 orcas currently in captivity in San Diego will be the last.

I also posted that endangered orcas off the coast of Washington state are in the middle of a baby boom, with six newborns and, apparently, several more pregnant mamas in the group. Of course, these new babies will need to eat once they’re weaned off their mothers’ milk, so we need to make sure that their favorite fish, salmon, is abundant. A good step would be to take down four dams that are blocking some of the best inland salmon habitat in the U.S. This not a short-term goal, but since orcas can live to be 100 years old or more, we must think ahead!

Read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article here.

Wild Bison Return to Colorado

This is my favorite kind of story — when wildlife are allowed to return to habitats they used to live in before being hunted nearly to extinction. Last week, on National Bison Day, 10 bison were reintroduced to northern Colorado, where they haven’t roamed free for more than 150 years.

The National Wildlife Federation worked to bring brucellosis-free bison to a 1000-acre parcel of open space owned by the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can cause female bison to miscarry. Because it is possibly transmissible to domestic cattle, ranchers have long fought the reintroduction of bison in areas where their cattle might come into contact with them. The 10 bison released in Colorado last week were bred using a new technique that should guarantee they are free of brucellosis. The eventual goal is to have a herd of hundreds of bison roaming about 10,000 acres. Bison from this large herd could go on to repopulate other areas or provide fresh bloodlines to other bison herds.

Only a few bison were left in the U.S after the herds of 30 million were reduced to just a few individuals by the late 1800s. Ten bison is just a small start, but someday large herds could roam parts of Colorado again.

View the National Wildlife Federation blog post here

Seattle Is Opening 9 Totally-Outdoor Nature Preschools

Who wants to move to Seattle? Well, I kind of do, after reading this article on the Good News Network.

I recently posted about the Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island, WA, which educates children entirely in the forest. No classrooms!

In collaboration with Tiny Trees Preschool, Seattle has now announced plans to open nine preschools in its city parks. The   school’s founder believes that all the necessary activities can occur in the park, just as well as in the classroom. I agree!

The kids will nap on mats in the park shelters, use the park bathrooms, and do lessons in the pavilions when it rains–which is a lot, so all the kids will be issued superior rainsuits to use for the whole year.

This is nothing new in Europe, where outdoor schools have been in operation since the 1950s. Germany currently has at least 1,000. The instruction will be similar to the Montessori method, where kids self-direct their learning by choosing among several pre-planned activities to work on. The preschool is expected to cost about $5,000 less per year than regular preschool because there is no building overhead to pay.

Read more at the Good News Network here.

Washingtonians Vote to Protect Wildlife

The citizens of Washington state just voted to enact a new law that will “prohibit the purchase, sale, and distribution of products made from a list of 10 endangered animals being exploited to the point of potential extinction, and will be enforced by strong penalties. The animals protected by I-1401 include elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.”

This is great news, as these are some of the most targeted and trafficked animals in the world. The U.S. Senate will soon be considering a bill (recently passed by the House) that will strengthen federal criminal penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking. Although we are still sad about the death of Cecil the Lion, it is certainly true that his death has shined a spotlight on the issue of international wildlife crimes.

You can view the original National Wildlife Federation Action Fund post here

Save Animals Facing Extinction (bill sponsor)’s site here.

California Dairy Farmer Provides Habitat for 15,000 Imperiled Birds

I am reposting this great article from my law school colleague’s blog, The California Crow. The blog discusses the evolving world of food and agriculture policy. One hopeful story involves incentive programs in California to help farmers delay harvest long enough for imperiled birds to fledge their young. Read on.

The California Crow

Frank Mendonsa, a dairy farmer in Tipton, California, and the President of Western United Dairymen was recognized earlier this week for his significant contributions to protecting two colonies of the California emergency-listed Tricolored Blackbird. Since April, Mendonsa’s silage fields became a temporary nesting habitat for the colonies of nearly 15,000 birds, and Mendonsa is delaying harvest to help the birds safely fledge their young.

“When the birds first appeared on my property this spring, I didn’t know what kind they were,” said Mendonsa. “Once it was pointed out to me how few of these birds are left in the world and how many were on my property, I was very moved. I could see how much they needed my help and protection to build back their populations, so I have taken it upon myself to ensure their safety on this farm.”

Conservation partners working with Mendonsa to find win-win…

View original post 419 more words

Yellowstone Grizzly Population is Growing

New research based on genetic testing of grizzly bears in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks shows that the bear population is increasing in size. The tests also indicate that the population is not suffering from a lack of genetic diversity, which can happen in an animal population contained within a (relatively) small area. While the current range of the Yellowstone grizzly is around the size of South Carolina, that represents a greatly restricted home, as the species used to roam the U.S. from California to Ohio and from Alaska to Mexico. And while there were once tens of thousands of grizzlies in North America, there remain only about 2000 in the lower 48. Almost all of these are found in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, with a small population of maybe 80 bears in Washington state.

2000px-Flag_of_California.svg

Of course, the state flag of California still features a grizzly bear, even though the last time a bear was seen in California was in 1924. In the 1800s, residents of San Francisco could watch grizzlies swim across the San Francisco Bay to Angel Island! What a sight that would be. The Center for Biological Diversity is calling for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to consider reintroducing grizzlies to California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Read more at CBD’s newsroom here.

Read about the bear study here.

Read about bringing back grizzlies at Defenders of Wildlife’s site here

U.S. House Passes Badly Needed Anti-Poaching Bill

Legislation cracking down on international wildlife trafficking and supporting park rangers in Africa sailed through the House of Representatives yesterday with strong bipartisan support. Putting wildlife trafficking crimes on par with gun and drug trafficking, the bill would also allow the government to put much greater pressure on nations where poaching is rampant. It also provides support for front-line rangers to prevent poaching in African nations.

You can call on your senators to support the Global Anti-Poaching Act as it moves to the U.S. Senate next.

Easy link to find your senators’ phone numbers.

Read more at Defenders of Wildlife.